Drinking Local: All Things Minnesota

Pictured: Minnesota in June

Ah, the North. Home to hot dish, Spam sandwiches and sub zero temperatures for 13 months out of the year. It’s like Winterfell but the locals have a different accent, dontcha know. Yes the food is weird and the weather feels like it should be spelled in all capitals but there’s a lot more happening here beyond those two talking points! For one, (and the focus of this weeks post) Minnesota is home to a healthy amount of distilleries, breweries and scenic wineries. after all we need something to warm us up in the winter and to keep us cool in the summer!

Outside of the high quality, small batch and craft distilled products under the vomFASS label, we also stock quite a few MN products!

Vino:

Carlos Creek winery in Alexandria, Minnesota (easy to find, hard to leave) has been producing wine since 1999. Here at vomFASS in the Mall of America you can track down a number of their products available for purchase. Minnescato is an inspired homage to the much loved Moscato. It sparkles, shes sweet and any hot dish would be lucky to pair with this wine made from local Minnesota grown grapes. For red wine lovers who don’t have that sweet tooth, Carlos Creek produces a Marquette from the grape of the same name which was developed by the University of Minnesota…It really doesn’t get more Minnesotan than that.

Also on our shelves you can find Round Lake Vineyards Frontenac Gris and Brianna. Two semi sweet options made for those long summer nights up at the cabin. Brianna has a decidedly tropical personality while the Frontenac Gris is packed with explosive notes of cranberry. Round Lake Vineyards is located just North of the Iowa border but that doesn’t stop them from frequently visiting us to drop off a sample bottle or two, come on in and give their wine a try!

Beer & Cider:

Beer is my first love. I’ve never met a brew I didn’t like. Okay maybe not that habanero IPA I had in Manhattan but that’s neither here nor there. A local Minneapolis Brewery, Boom Island, stole our hearts here at vomFASS Twin Cities. We carry their Dubbel, Tripel, Quad and Saison Belgian style ales as well as their Russian imperial stout, ‘Kollusion’ which is made with Dunn Bros. coffee and aged in Tennessee Whiskey barrels. Seriously consider picking some of this up, I don’t know where else this is still in stock other than our shelves.

Our Ciders are from Milk & Honey out of Cold Springs. ‘Alchemy’, an ice cider made from MN’s own Chestnut crab, is mellowed in bourbon barrels and sports a hearty, sweet and smooth personality. We also carry 4 other drier sparkling ciders also from Milk & Honey. If you’re on the lookout for ciders with a bit more depth and less of that alcoholic apple juice quality, be sure to check out the Milk & Honey products in our store!

The Hard Stuff:

Far North Spirits, Panther Distillery, Vikre Distillery and Rockfilter Distillery. All hand picked by us to stand tall on our shelves here at MOA in Bloomington.

Far North Spirits you will find…well far north up in Hallock, MN. Basically put your toes in Canada and fall backwards and you’ll land in Hallock. We carry their Nordic style spiced rum, ‘Allander’ and it would seem like the distillers unlocked the secret of distilling holidays because this tastes just like Christmas. Also on our shelves is ‘Rokknar’ a rye whiskey from Far North (which we will be discussing more in next weeks post all about rye) that was bottled specifically for vomFASS after we tasted through their single barrels and picked our favorite! Panther Distillery from Osakis, MN in near the dead center of the state is well represented on our shelves. We carry ‘Saint Paul’, a three year old straight Bourbon, ‘Pike Street’ which is another three year old bourbon as well as ‘Spiked Apple’ and ‘Minnesota 14 Maple’ which are both sweeter and flavored two year old corn whiskeys. Vikre up in Duluth utilizes water from the mighty Lake Superior to produce their alcohol. If you are a fan of gin or absinthe or just happen to be a curious drinker, come in for a sample of ‘Ovrevann’. Meaning Lake Superior or Upper Lake in Norwegian, ‘Ovrevann’ is Vikre’s Aquavit. Definitely worth a taste. Finally from as far south and as far east as you can go here in the North Star state you’ll find Rockfilter Distillery in Spring Grove, MN. We carry their two year old bourbon, ‘Giants of the Earth’ which has a mash bill made up of corn, winter rye and sorghum. This one is for the fans of the bolder bourbons.

Minnesota is home to hard working bunch. Here at vomFASS MOA we stock the fruits of all that labor. I find that Rockfilter’s mission statement says it best,

“Our Norwegian ancestors fled a cold, hard place for a colder, harder place. It didn’t make them bitter, just busy. Like them, we continue to make the best of it. We farm. We make bourbon. Happily ever after”

Whichever Minnesota beverage you choose to enjoy this Summer take a moment to appreciate who and where it came from. Happy drinking everyone. Skol!

Will O’Reilly is a Minnesota native who enjoys Minnesota spirits, wines and beers. Find him at vomFASS Twin Cities.

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Oh What a World…of Whisk(e)y! Pt. 3

Our final foray into the wold of whisk(e)y takes us home. So don your reds whites and blues and tell Johnny to strike up the band because baby it’s time to talk about America!

Corn, barley, rye and wheat. The usual suspects of whisk(e)y production across the globe. The United States is to be thanked for taking those ingredients and birthing a few of her own original spirits. Namely, Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey. Like Scotland and Ireland we have our own set of regulations to follow when producing America’s finest. Though you will notice they are…shall we say, more relaxed? This is a reoccurring theme with alcohol production here in the states. Comparing Americas craft beer market, responsible for IPAs incorporating habanero peppers as well as Rocky Mountain Oyster Stouts (if you are unaware of what this means, do yourself a favor and keep it that way), to brewers in Germany, you will notice QUITE the difference. The Purity Law of 1516 firmly regulates beer production in Germany. It declares that that the only ingredients to be used are water, barley and hops (yeast as well but no one knew what the heck that was in 1516).

This is all to say, we do things our way and tend to let innovation and ingenuity run a little wild!

Bourbon! Originally crafted in Kentucky and now made as far and wide as Minnesota, is a spirit whose mash bill (or recipe) must be comprised of at least 51% corn and can be distilled to a proof no higher than 160. The remaining 49% is up to the distiller and can vary dramatically from producer to producer. Upon entering the ageing stage, this spirit must be no stronger than 125 proof Bourbon must be aged in new, charred oak barrels. New barrels. Every. Single. Time. The luckiest of those bourbon barrels make their way to Scotland to be used in Scotch Whisky production. It is important to note that there is no minimum age requirement for Bourbon. Many enter the market at no older than just a few months. More often than not you will find Bourbon to be a fuller feeling, sweeter spirit on the palate with kisses of char, smoke and vanilla. We currently carry several different Bourbons at our MOA location. Panther Distillery in Osakis Minnesota produces ‘Pike Street’ and ‘Saint Paul’, both 3 year old Bourbons. A personal favorite of mine is made as far South and as far East as one can travel in Minnesota. ‘Giants of the Earth’ is a 2 year old Bourbon distilled by Rockfilter all the way down Spring Grove, MN. Produced for vomFASS are ‘Two Georges High Corn’ and ‘Northern Plains’ Bourbons. The former being produced from 81% corn and the latter being a blend of Kentucky and Wisconsin Bourbon.

Tennessee Whiskey! Decidedly NOT bourbon in the way Cremant is not Champagne. Varying by a small margin technically but worlds apart in history, these two spirits have one key difference: Charcoal. Here we go with the weird America stuff again. Tennessee Whisky is produced the same way bourbon is but just before barreling the clear corn spirit is filtered through sugar maple charcoal. Some people make their own charcoal by burning whiskey soaked sugar maple while others simply soak the charcoal with the soon to be whiskey. Tennessee Whiskey will have a smoother personality, a taste similar to bourbon and of course a rather distinct charcoal presence. Tennessee Whiskey is also a killer song by Chris Stapleton.

To be covered in a future entry you can also find Rye and Wheat based whiskey here in the USA. More specifically you can find them on our shelves at vomFASS Mall of America! Next time you find yourself in our neck of the woods be sure to ask about our, ‘Two Georges’ line of whiskey. We can get you a taste of the Bourbon, Rye and an exceptionally unique Wheat Whiskey.

Indeed, whisk(e)y has many faces. Some of which are specific to the land in which they were first born. Others are finding new homes across the world as people strive to satisfy the thirst for high quality spirits we all seem to share. Whichever expression you are to enjoy next we hope you’ll do so with a bit deeper of an understanding and appreciation for the history and labor behind each Whisk(e)y.

Will O’Reilly continues to talk about the world of alcohol long after you stop even listening. Find him at vomFASS Mall of America!